Californians are used to earthquakes and tremors, but the recent 6.4 and subsequent 7.1 quakes are enough to serve as a wake-up call that the long-dreaded “big one” could still strike. The state is paying attention to the signs and has ordered more than $16 million to install thousands of quake detecting sensors all around the state. The idea is that this equipment would provide precious seconds of advance notice that would allow public utilities and services to shut down before the quake hits.
The beleaguered Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) power utility has been blamed for power lines and business practices causing massive fires here in California. While it filed for bankruptcy protection in January, the company has announced that it will pay $1 billion to 14 municipal agencies and jurisdictions to help rebuild.
Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) is being held responsible for the California wildfires of 2017 and 2018, which has led to the utility giant to declare bankruptcy. In light of this development, San Francisco city officials are the option of taking over PG&E or parts of it. The city believes this would reduce the cost of power delivery, improve reliability and continue the sustainability goals it has set for itself. It would also avoid reliance upon the embattled utility whose future is far from certain.
The repercussions Supreme Court of the United State’s (SCOTUS) ruling of the Janus v. AFSCME continues to be felt. The latest example involves five teachers launching a class action against the California Teachers Association and its local union affiliates as well as five school district superintendents and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. SCOTUS ruled in its last term that public sector unions needed to discontinue its decades-long practice of collecting fair share fees from non-union members for negotiating collective bargaining agreements. This practice, it said, violated an employee’s First Amendment Rights.
Governor Gavin Newsom and the State of California have accused the city of refusing to amend its housing plan to add more low-income housing. According to a report from KQED, this state law drafted in 2017 addresses the fact that California has more homeless than any other state as well prohibitively expensive housing costs. It is the first time that the governor has chosen to enforce it.
Politicians rarely run on a platform of raising taxes or giving raises to public sector employees at the local, state or federal level. This has led to a series of legal battles in recent years, particularly involving teachers’ unions. Therefore, the strike by 34,000 teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District is just the latest of an ongoing series of strikes where educators seek pay raises and improvements in working conditions.
There have been a 117 workers’ compensation claims involving cancer that have been filed by Texas firefighters over the last six years. According to the Texas Department of Insurance and media outlets, more than 90 percent of those claims have been denied. This is in spite of the fact that a 2005 state law requires governments to presume that cancer is caused by exposure to toxic carcinogens while working.
City council members and other public officials know that there can be a fine line between public and private. It is necessary for public figures to balance their private communications with the need for public transparency. Sometimes, a seemingly innocuous activity like exchanging private emails or text messages can land you in hot water.
No entity, public or private, enjoys being sued. Litigation can be long, tedious and expensive. Even if the city is not fully at fault, it sometimes has no choice but to go to court or settle. This is what happened to our northern neighbors in Portland, Ore., who were sued after a historic building was flooded with human sewage.
Cities face a bevy of thorny legal issues: Premise liability, insurance, personal injury claims and employment disputes, to name just a few. Sometimes, it seems that no matter how carefully a public entity and its attorneys navigate these issues, a disgruntled party is bound to bring a lawsuit. Lawsuits are nightmare for cities. However, in our ever-litigious society, they seem more common than ever.